UN raises $1.7 billion for hungry, displaced millions in Sahel

A camp for refugees in Sahel [Twitter account of Janez Lenarcic]

The United Nations raised more than $1.7 billion in pledges on Tuesday (20 October) to fund aid efforts in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger for the rest of 2020 and 2021 as UN aid chief Mark Lowcock warned a “preventable tragedy is looming” in the central Sahel region.

Lowcock told a virtual pledging conference that some 13 million people, including 5 million children, need emergency humanitarian assistance to survive. He said more than 7 million people had been pushed into acute hunger.

“Humanitarian needs in the central Sahel are higher than they have ever been, and the rate at which needs have increased is truly alarming,” he told the conference, organized by the United Nations, the European Union, Germany and Denmark. The EU executive was represented by Janez Lenarčič, European Commissioner for Crisis Management.

The pledges from 22 countries, the EU and the Education Cannot Wait fund fell short of the $2.4 billion the United Nations said it needed.

“The central Sahel region is at a breaking point,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said. “The Sahel is a microcosm of cascading global risks converging in one region.”

Lowcock cited chronic poverty and underdevelopment, demographic growth and climate change, intercommunal conflict, violent criminal gangs and extremists as some of the causes of the humanitarian crisis.

France, a former colonial power in the region, is leading a coalition of West African and European allies to fight Islamist militants in the Sahel. It has deployed thousands of troops in the region south of the Sahara desert since 2013, but militant violence has been on the rise.

France and Sahel leaders gather for summit on anti-jihad campaign

Leaders from five West African countries and their ally France gathered Tuesday (30 June) to take stock of a new strategy to intensify the fight against jihadist insurgents in the Sahel.

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